Alestorm - Sunset on the Golden Age 01Previously on AMG, heavy metal pirates Alestorm received the glowing accolade of “unceremoniously piss[ing] in the pool” of pirate metal in a Running Wild review. Today on AMG, these Scottish privateers set sail into calmer critical seas, and I’m going to spend 500 or so words telling you, our dear readers, why Alestorm’s latest record, Sunset on the Golden Age, is worth your time and attention.

First, the good news: Alestorm haven’t changed much. They still play their signature brew of keytar driven power-folk informed by Bal-Sagoth, and they still have lyrics about drinking, piracy, giant squids, or combinations thereof. Little things are what end up making big differences here. While he’s still no Hansi Kursch, Bowes has improved his singing voice significantly since 2011’s thoroughly entertaining Back Through Time, enhancing his raw charisma with an improved ear for melody and a greater tonal range. New crewmate Elliot Vernon adds keyboards alongside Bowes’ keytar into the mix, which is both not nearly as ridiculous as it sounds and actually quite beneficial, adding an addictive symphonic touch to the title track, “Walk the Plank,” and album highlight “1741 (The Battle of Cartagena).”

Alestorm - Sunset on the Golden Age 02While all of these songs fit comfortably into a playlist of their previous three albums, Alestorm have trimmed the fat, played to their strengths, and in some absurd way managed to take themselves simultaneously more and less seriously, and these particular small changes produce huge results. “1741” is a musical retelling of the most significant battle in the War of Jenkins’ Ear with a sweeping and cinematic musical backing, becoming a seriously great pirate-y metal epic. Alternatively, “Surf Squid Warfare” tells a tale of time-travelling pirates fighting giant undead squids from space replete with Back to the Future references and some ridiculously fun, catchy music to boot. While more often than not Alestorm go the less serious route both lyrically and musically, their skill at crafting earworm melodies and tight, efficient songs has never been better. There’s not a dud in the bunch, and the production wonderfully showcases each song here, even if it is a tiny bit overcompressed. This is a minor quibble however, as the not quite brickwalled mastering does next to nothing to detract from the sheer enjoyment here.

Ultimately, if their whole silly (albeit entirely self-aware) pirate shtick bothers you to the point where it’s impossible to listen to them, Alestorm won’t win you over because, well, they’re still Alestorm. But underneath all the pirate stuff is some fantastic songwriting and serious instrumental skill that gives Sunset on the Golden Age tons of replay value. Alestorm have made an album that rests firmly within the top-tier of releases this year for sheer musical quality, entertainment value, and pure, undiluted fun. This feels like the album that Alestorm has spent their career trying to write: it’s pirate-y, it’s metal, it’s folk-y, it’s a ton of fun, and it’s got more hooks than a one-handed pirate convention [Editor’s Note: The author of this piece has been keelhauled due to questionable tastes].

Tracks to Check: “Walk the Plank,” “1741 (Battle of Cartagena),” “Magnetic North,” and “Quest for Ships”

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  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Is the fact that Alestorm hasn’t changed actually good news?

    • brutal_sushi

      Yes, it is

    • Mikko Ojanen

      Quite.

    • King Aurthoar, Dragon Puncher

      Yes because most bands who try to change their style tend to go down hill into Shitzville. At least their song writing has taken some turns into some-what different themes(I’m looking at 1741.)

  • Mikko Ojanen

    Alestorm must have some kind of magical rum keg hidden somewhere, because god damn they just won’t run out of the stuff.

    I’ve loved them since the beginning, and not only have they been consistently fun as hell, each album has been slightly better and more entertaining than the previous one. They’re starting to hit peak ridiculous with some songs now, while proving they can also do some more serious stuff (relatively speaking) with 1741 and the title track.

    Also, Drink might just have the most ridiculously catchy chorus I’ve ever heard.

  • Alexandre Barata

    I wasn’t impressed by the new album. I mean, there are some good songs, but although they’re the only (that I know of) pirate metal band, the formulae already sounds old… I liked the first album because it was new, it was imbecile, and it was fun. Without the 1st there’s only imbecileness and fun-ness, but the last one goes down with the 1st in this case, for me at least…

  • This is where AMG jumped the shark. This or the upcoming Dracula concept album by Jorn.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Now I want an Alestorm/Jorn collaboration: Lande and Sea.

      • Grymm

        ^Comment of the Week, ladies and germs.

      • Don’t encourage them!

      • The Meh

        I hope you feel good about yourself with that pun.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    The video is awesome!

  • OzanCan

    The cover of Hangover is also particularly veery catchy! Even though, I hate the original song, the cover fits perfectly with this jolly bunch of Scots!! m/

    I am just glad I haven’t missed this.

    Oh btw, what about new Equilibrium and Eluveitie albums? Any reviews planned?

    • Jono_M

      I’ve spent the past couple months trying to convince a DJ buddy to mash them together during a set. I think it could get a club going.

  • Brian Kelly

    i cant really see alestorm ever changing their style too much, which is good, and they are adding things to each new album, like a few more death metal vocals here, etc. this is a great album and the only complaint is that a few of the songs sound nearly identical to a couple songs off the previous cd, or maybe the one before that. at least in the chorus but maybe more, ive listened to this probably 50 times but not in the past few weeks. they really need to be careful to keep the songs differentiated, that hadnt been a problem at all on the first 3 cds, but on the 4th one its cropped up, so as long as they avoid that in the future i think they are pretty much the best ‘new’ band out there.

  • Our Fortress Is Burning

    I appreciate their honesty.

  • Jono_M

    Do you have a link? I’d love to send it on to DJ friends.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Disqus doesn’t like links, but just Google “magnetic telephone” and it should be the first result.

      • Jono_M

        Holy crap, this is amazing! Thanks!